If there’s art in having good ideas, there’s science in receiving them. Here are five ways to make it easy and rewarding for team members to deliver ideas:
In ancient Polynesian wars, routis were the orators and cheerleaders for battles. Their job was to animate the troops by recalling past victories and explaining the battle’s purpose. Routis would mingle with warriors during conflicts, cheering them on and boosting their courage.
Be your organization’s routi for creativity. Mingle with the troops. Spread enthusiasm. Tell stories. Clarify goals. Paint visions of creative success.
Creativity is a team sport. Sometimes you’re the one tossing out ideas, but many times you need to energetically assume the crucial role of receiving ideas from others.
Max DePree, Herman Miller’s legendary leader, compared this give-and-take to baseball pitchers and catchers. The greatest fastball pitcher in the league can’t win unless someone is there to catch his sizzling throws. And creative folks can’t succeed unless they have catchers to listen to their ideas and understand their value.
Fresh ideas have short shelf lives. If people feel they have to take a number and wait in line to see you, budding ideas will wither and creativity will die.
To keep ideas growing and flowing, block times in your day to be available to anyone who wants to air a new concept. And make sure your mind is also available—focused, in the moment and open to new directions.
"I don’t have an open-door policy; I have an open-mind policy," DreamHost’s Simon Anderson told the New York Times. "An open mind helps you hear things, good or bad."
Many years ago, one of my creative directors came to me with a unique product idea. I loved his concept and excitedly embraced it, eagerly jumping in with my own additions and refinements. But the more I babbled, the more he slumped in his chair.
When I asked what was wrong, I got an eye-opening response. "Whenever we present ideas, you immediately start adding on or suggesting improvements," he said. "It makes us feel like our ideas are never good enough."
Lesson learned. When receiving a good idea, avoid instantly bolting on additions or alterations. There’ll be plenty of time later to revise and refine. For the moment, let the idea stand, and let the idea’s creator bask in its glory.
You rely on team members to come up with ideas. They depend on you to advance those ideas—or to explain why an idea has been delayed or shot down.
If ideas regularly vanish into black holes, employees become discouraged and stop having more ideas. Vow to provide on-going feedback about the stride or stall of every idea you receive from team members. And when ideas do succeed, respond with celebration.